By most accounts, Google+ has failed to make a significant dent in people's online habits, despite having 359 million members, according to one unofficial count. But that doesn't mean it hasn't changed the way people use Google. In fact, the tech giant is letting its flailing social network dictate other services it offers -- killing some to make way for Google+.
The latest example comes from The Wall Street Journal, which reported this week that Google CEO Larry Page asked engineers to develop a privacy feature that would let Googlers throttle the amount of data they send to Google's servers. The would-be setting would have let you toggle through "kitten," "cat" and "tiger" modes of Google, which would tell the company whether it should collect a "minimal, medium or maximum" amount of data about those who conduct a Google search or watch a YouTube video.
But it wasn't meant to be. According to the Journal, the project faced the dizzying challenge of coordinating privacy policies across diverse products. But there was one other self-imposed obstacle: "Allowing people to select the maximum-protection setting, known as the 'tin-foil-hat option,' went against Google's newer efforts to get more people to share information about themselves on the Google+ social-networking service," sources told the paper's Amir Efrati. Google didn't answer a HuffPost inquiry about the Journal article.
This feline-inspired privacy setting isn't the only thing Google has built and then dropped because of Google+. With a small but loyal following, Google Reader was "sunsetted" -- Google's euphemism for killed -- earlier this year, after it decided it was better if people found and shared news on the social network rather than through an RSS reader. Similarly, when Google Chat was replaced by Google Hangouts in May, you could no longer display a "Gchat status" to all of your contacts. It's believed Google axed that feature as well in order to get people posting in its "ghost town."
Google created Google+ in 2011 to curb the threat that social networks posed to its business. People were increasingly using social sites, mainly Facebook, to find what to read or watch online, sucking traffic from Google search. But in the distance loomed a larger danger: What if Facebook created its own Web search engine -- not just one that brought up info about friends -- and offered better results because it knew its members so intimately?
So Google built a social network to get a Facebook-sized pile of data, but is still waiting for people to show up and spent more than an average of 3.3 minutes on the site, according to comScore research from 2012. It's been argued that while Google would have loved to dethrone Facebook, it's still content running Google+ as long as people enter biographical data about themselves, even if they never return.
It's unlikely any Google executive is going to lose sleep over doing away with any of sunsetted features, which were never going to be core moneymakers for the company. But what if, in trying to incubate Google+, it smothers the next great idea?
Earlier on HuffPost:
Google Glasses: A New Way To Hurt Yourself
It didn't take very long for Tom Scott to upload <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/04/05/google-glasses-parody-project-glass_n_1406274.html" target="_hplink">this hilarious spoof</a> of Google's "Project Glass" video -- he literally posted his video on the same day Google posted theirs. In a short 20 seconds, he shows all that could go wrong with a futuristic tech device like this one.
Windows Project Glass: One Day Too...
What if Google's glasses <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/04/09/project-glass-parody-smashes-windows_n_1412340.html" target="_hplink">ran Windows</a>? It's likely the problems (and pop-ups) would be endless, as shown in this parody <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=ZwModZmOzDs" target="_hplink">by Vlakkeland</a>.
Google Glasses Warfare [Project Glass: One Day Parody]
<a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=rM4KF0SAm0I" target="_hplink">Binx Films</a> goes gamer on Google's "Project Glass" video, showing how the device would work in the middle of a Call of Duty-like mission.
Project Ass: Google Goggles (The Parody)
The wearer of Google's glasses in this <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=-KmFSmkDyr8" target="_hplink">Grad Life production</a> definitely makes the video hilarious with how he puts them to use.
Project Dangerous Glasses
With this video, <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=Ma8NbpCvSwo" target="_hplink">Happy Toaster</a> shows how not-so-great Google's high-tech glasses might be, especially playing up how it may point out the way-too-obvious and even accidentally cause a death.
Google Project Glass - Cheating Wife Parody
<a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=5vrxfiXU5lo" target="_hplink">LessFilms' funny video</a> points out yet another pitfall (or perhaps plus?) of having Google glasses: You can find out if your loved one is cheating whether you like it or not.
ADmented Reality - Google Glasses Remixed With Google Ads
<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/04/05/is-this-what-google-glasses-video_n_1406993.html" target="_hplink">Jonathan McIntosh</a> tells it to the world straight <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=_mRF0rBXIeg" target="_hplink">with his Google glass spoof</a>. In the same way that Google pages are riddled with ads, he suggests that Google's glasses might be filled with ads, too -- but they'll be a lot more distracting.
Google Glasses: FIRST HANDS ON!
Unfortunately, <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=RC8p8olw2oU" target="_hplink">Studio Hoofnail's short parody</a> of Google's video ends quite tragically -- but not before poking fun at its potential shortcomings.
Google's Project Glass
Even <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/04/06/jimmy-kimmel-google-project-glass-video_n_1407927.html" target="_hplink">Jimmy Kimmel had his fun</a> with Google's "Project Glass" video. The clip he shows may <em>look</em> like the original, but keep on watching to discover the funny bit he added on.
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Google unveils a preview of its futuristic Web-based digital glasses that puts the company's Web services, literally, in your face.